One of us

Once I was free of the airport yesterday (I did not find Scarlett Road. The evil paved and looping paths of confusion at Pearson decided that I was going to take the 427. I swear that they are changing the roads in and out of there in between my visits.) I brought my guest back to my house (we may have stopped at the liquor store and the beer store on the way home) and we set ourselves up in the backyard where we played yarn and fibre games for a good long time, upsetting the neighbours and making the table look just the way it should.


I love it when Juno visits.

Today we yarn crawl, bead crawl and see Toronto.

Where should I take her? (Forget the CN tower. Apparently she’s a big chicken. We have also ruled out Hanlan’s point because I am a big chicken.) We’ll see Skydome tomorrow for Stitch ‘n Pitch (The whole McPhee clan is attending en masse…) and I think I have to show her the island. Assuming all fibre destinations are covered… Where to go?

If you’re a local, offer up your best. If not local, but you’ve always wondered about something, we can go see it for you if you want…

Don’t forget good beer stops. Tally ho!

If it’s August, it must be Aurora

Yessiree Bob, it’s that time of year again. The time of year when yours truly exchanges a whack of emails with Sandra and we pick the hottest possible day of the year to put as many knitters as we can in the upstairs of Tove’s shop (Needles and Knits) in Aurora, Ontario, then complain about the heat like we didn’t know it was coming. We wind up the evening with a discussion about how next year we will not make the same mistakes and this year, my friends, this year we have learned our lesson. This year I will go here:

Tuesday August 21 at 7pm

Aurora United Church, Basement Social Hall. 15186 Yonge Street, Aurora.

It will be cool, it will seat more people and we can have a proper yarn party without melting. We will still be able to go to the shop (because it’s one of the best shops ever) but we won’t poach in the upstairs, because you know what?

Sandra and I can be taught. (Slowly…apparently.)

That’s all for today, since really, I should be picking up a knitting friend from the airport, and I have to allow time to get lost and still be there when her flight comes. (Pearson International and I have issues. Does anyone remember how to get back onto Scarlett Road from Terminal 1?)

I have had haircuts like this

So all the way too Halifax and all the way back I knit on the STR sock club socks from a while ago. (Both the yarn colour and the pattern are exclusive to the club for a little bit…they will eventually be available over at Blue Moon.) I made this shocking decision, to entertain the concept of project monogamy for 24 whole hours, because I actually finished the other sleeve of the Kauni. (And it does match. Obsessive compulsives of the world UNITE!)

This means that the next thing to do is to sew and cut the front steek and pick up button bands, and I just couldn’t see any of that as a good plane, taxi, hotel or beer-drinking-with-your-buddies project. (It is my firm belief that while a single drink can steady a body up for steeking, more than one effects accuracy and should be avoided.) Instead I worked on a single sock, which means a single sock was finished. (I admit, although it is not my preference, this “one at a time thing” really gets stuff done.) Now, I am not a toe-up sock person. In fact, for reasons that are too complex and stupid to go into here, I sort of hate them. That said, I really like knitting and want to have good skills and from time to time, that means taking on something that you don’t care for. (It also means accepting that the reason you don’t care for it is because you suck at it, and that with a little practice you might be more openminded….but I’m getting there.)

So I decide I’ll follow the directions and knit these socks toe up. I knit and knit, trying to figure out where to start the heel. I suppose I misjudged at some point, because while I was on the plane knitting away and watching Firefly on my laptop, I noticed the foot was freakishly long. I ripped back two repeats, thought it looked better and started the heel. I then entered some sort of fugue state where my inner knitter knew it was too darned long, but forced me to keep knitting anyway. It’s the downside of being a basically hopeful person. When the sock was finished I got Meg to put it on, because she has very long and skinny feet, and if they were going to fit anyone, it would be her. It was not her.

Finally faced with the truth, last night I unpicked the figure eight cast on I had started with at the toe, then remembered that you can’t unravel knitting in the wrong direction if there is anything going on other than stockinette (though I tried for a while) and decided to snip a thread back at a reasonable foot length.


Then I unpicked along the row, picking up the freed stitches as I went….


And knit me a new toe,


Now it is too short. Mission accomplished. Score, sock 1, Stephanie…..Nothing.

In other news:

I’m deciding what makes good knitting for a ball game, since the Stitch n’ Pitch program that’s run in other cities and looks like so much fun is finally coming to Toronto, and the game is Wednesday, August 15th, Megan’s 16th Birthday! The whole Harlot clan will be attending, eating (veggie) hot dogs and freaking out the non-knitting public in as big a way as possible. Get tickets here. It’s going to be big, big fun.

Back from The Fax

Wow. I meant to get this up sooner but what can I say…some re-entries are harder than others. My plane got me in yesterday, but a flurry of appointments and Mum-type responsibilities kept me from the keyboard. (You would be surprised how little leeway “but I’ve got to blog” gets you on these things. There is much work left to be done in the world, let me tell you.)

Halifax was, without a doubt, a burning whack of big fun. It’s a great city, and even though I only had an hour free there, I made the most of it. Some of you may remember when our stalwart friend Tim flew the big city and a Harbour Captain job to pursue the shining waves of Halifax harbour and become The Master and Commander of The Tall Ship Silva…(still, I insist, the hottest job title EVER) and since I hadn’t seen him since Joe and I were married last September, the first person I wanted to put my eyes on was he.


Ship and harbour behind him, he looks for all the world like Halifax agrees with him. Tim took the time to point out a wonderful bit of trivia, which will likely only be poignant for Canadian caffeine types. This is The Tall Ship Silva.


This …..this is the “taller than the tall ship” ship belonging to the guy who owns Tim Hortons.


I’m not sure what that says, but hold on while I get myself another cup of coffee. (I wonder how much of that ship I bought?)

After wandering the docks for an hour it was back to The Lord Nelson where the knitters were beginning to mill about. I abandoned Tim to the bar and went up to my room to change, wash my face and have a complete nervous breakdown. That accomplished (I am nothing if not efficient) I went back downstairs and faced up to this:



Halifax’s finest knitters my friends, all organized to flip out the staff of The Lord Nelson, who in the long and fancy history of the hotel had (and I quote) “never seen anything like it.” (I think there are many knitters there who can attest that while the staff was absolutely generous and helpful, they were pretty freaked. Alison has some great pictures, of the whole thing, including one of some of the Halifax Knitting Out Loud group (who are decidedly unruly – you know, in that wonderful Canadian way that still doesn’t piss anyone off.) using a sign at the Lord Nelson as a battering ram to get into the ballroom. I’m thrilled that her pictures are so grand, since my camera has apparently “corrupted” some of the ones I took.

One of the pictures that did work was of Joe’s Aunty Madeleine…


who’s claim to fame is not just that she lives in Halifax, but that she sang a rap at our wedding. (I could try to describe it, but it will never come off as well as it did in person.) There are Halifax McPhee’s too….but they were MIA for this event. (The McPhee’s of everywhere are notoriously hard to pin down. It’s a family trait.)

Steph brought the esteemed Mr. Happy.


As long as Mr. Happy exists my travelling sock is not so silly….

Lesley brought her baby….


I love me a little baby action, and a baby in a Metallica tee-shirt is beyond cute. Beyond.

There were washcloths, one from New Brunswick, courtesy of May, and one from Janey, who gave it representing the blogless knitters of Nova Scotia. (This is where the politically active Rachel H. steps up and yells “BLOG-FREE! Not blog-less!) and although their pictures are corrupt…they are lovely.

There were designers, like the incomparable Ilga Leja


and Deb Barnhill, (also corrupt, apparently) designer of the most Canadian knitted thing EVER.

This is just for Lene, who has wondered what Barbara in Nova Scotia looks like…


she looks mostly like that, except I seem to have captured a manic look I assure you was not there in real life.

The camera decided to eat a picture of Sophie, and of Heddy (sorry guys.) but decided to let me keep this picture,


The Halifax Knitters in their matching tee-shirts. (They may have been a little excited – as well as being enabled by Rhonda, who is the brainchild behind those fashion statements.) They made me one, and I love it. (Mine’s green. You know how I love green.)

I was also allowed to keep this picture:


of Hope the hat lady with her haul, which included, rather unbelievably, many pairs of warm socks…


which shall certainly warm needy feet in the middle of a maritime winter. Brilliant. The whole thing was freaking fantastic (especially drinking the pride of Nova Scotia afterwards) and I just want to say a quick word about Mimi from the Loop in Halifax. If Mimi from the Loop was my local yarn store lady? I would never leave. (You can check that little detail with Megan, who is my local yarn shop lady and is a lot like Mimi and…well. I don’t hardly leave.) I adored her.

The next morning I had an hour to see a little Halifax before I caught my plane, but it was not to be….

The gardens,


The Citadel,


and the whole Harbour were gone


…swallowed by the infamous Halifax fog.

It was hard to leave anyway.

Good company

Last night Ken and I sorted out that he was leaving this morning at 10:30 and me at 10:45, he to Canada’s west coast, me to the east.

Joe drove us both to the airport where we spent a happy hour knitting and drinking an electrifying amount of coffee. (We both ate too…but we are trying to forget the airport food and will not recount it here.)

I started a sock (STR in the sock club colour “Firebird”, available for purchase in a couple of months- the colours are exclusive to the sock club in the beginning.) and Ken worked away on his latest project. I decided he needed to learn colourwork and my will was wrought upon him at Lettuce Knit a couple of weeks ago when I chose a Dale of Norway Cardigan for his niece, (I’ll look up the pattern number when I’m back home.) grabbed the Baby Ull off the shelf and presented him with the whole shebang. (I had him provide the Mastercard. I am no fool and my enabling goes only so far. )


He’s doing really, really well. So well that I guess I was wrong and he doesn’t need to learn how to do colourwork. He knit. I knit.


I don’t know how Ken is doing as we wing almost as far away from each other as possible in this country…


but this is how much sock you can knit going from Toronto to Halifax…and this –


is a piper standing on the corner. This is Halifax. They are a free range species here.

The good, the bad and the ugly


There are hidden blessings to having no idea about US geography – I get some wonderful surprises. (Before you read this next sentence and are stunned stupid at the depth of my ignorance, remember that they teach Canadians about as much US geography as they teach Americans about Canadian geography.) In the absence of a dead giveaway (like “Long Beach” which sort of has a tip off in it) I was absolutely delighted to arrive in Madison


Connecticut and discover that I was at the sea! (Technically, Long Island Sound, but it sure looked like the ocean to me.)


The sock and I hung out for a bit, it was a scorcher of a day and I waded happily in the ocean for a little, communing with the birds and admiring the seashells they leave on the boardwalks and piers. It’s a lovely spot, West Wharf Beach. I tried to Kinnear myself with the self-timer on the camera.


But it turns out it’s sort of hard to secretly take pictures of yourself.


I don’t shower. I may have mentioned this before… my home growing up had just a bathtub, and our home now is similarly showerless, and I may have been somewhat formed by a viewing of the shower murder scene in Psycho at a vulnerable age. A combination of that cinematic trauma and my lack of exposure to this method of human cleansing has resulted in a collosal discomfort with showering in general. I bathe. You can read, no water falls on your head, you can hear any knife wielding murderer coming in….you know if your kids have started a fire or the phone is ringing. Baths are better….so imagine my regret when my hotel room just had this:


Sadly, I had got to the beach and gotten myself somewhat grubby before I had internalize the lack of a bath, so I couldn’t just opt out.

I briefly considered just washing the serious bits with a washcloth, but decided that personal growth is an admirable goal and that I should just put on my big girl pants and suck it up. Showering. Millions of people do it. I can too. I double locked the door, checked the closet and under the bed and i got myself in there, washing up as efficiently as I was able.

The Ugly:

Have I ever mentioned that I am sort of “cautious” about spiders? I don’t care for them. I respect their right to be here, wholeheartedly support their bug eating role in the universe and have read and enjoyed Charlotte’s web many times. I still don’t like them. I especially don’t like them close to me…. so you can imagine my horror when I spotted one of the eight legged interlopers in the shower with me.

There is no arguing with ones psyche, so to put it in simple terms, when confronted with a spider IN A SHOWER (think on the stress level of combining two fears at once) I…to put it mildly…

I lost my s**t.

I wigged out. It was between me and the shower exit. It was huge. I couldn’t see it properly because I didn’t have my glasses on (I hate that about showers) so I could not even be clear if it was advancing on me. It loomed and lurked viciously at me from the shower floor and I FLIPPED. I threw my soapy self past the shower curtain, fleeing soaking wet and very nearly hysterical as the voice in the back of my mind screamed helpful things like “YOU ARE GOING TO DIE. THIS IS WHAT COMES OF SHOWERING” and I beat it, soggy and dripping out of harms way.

After a brief period of recovery (during which I watched the shower edge vigilantly…the only thing worse than a spider in the shower is a spider SOMEWHERE in a hotel room, there was no way I was going to lose track of it) I got my glasses to improve my odds and advanced upon her with murderous intent. (I know. I’m a pacifist, but I have just got to be able to use the bathroom.) As I stealthily peered over the edge to locate the enemy, I collapsed in relief.


It was hair. To add insult to injury, it was MY hair.

I was terrorized and humiliated by my own hair and stupidity. I swear. It’s a wonder I function at all.

The Good:

Meeting knitters at RJ Julia.



More Good:

Young knitters (note the even gender split again.)


Even more good:

Kate with a Rhode Island washcloth. (It’s got a lighthouse on it.)


Karen’s 1st sock.


So Bad it’s good:

Lisa outing Mandy’s 1st socks, which are, for once…about what you would expect in a first pair of socks, (they aren’t even the same size) and restoring my faith in normal 1st sock knitters.


More so Bad it’s Good:

Kimberly was caught with the proof that she was behind the great Boston Panty Incident.


Better than Good:

When Mary had to go to the hospital, as she was loaded into the ambulance, her husband yelled ” Which knitting bad do you want?”


(She’s really a woman after my heart.)

Also better than Good

Rebecca’s shawl.


’nuff said.

The Tremendously Good:

Barbara the Hat lady with her haul


The bad:

Arriving home and having one of my molars break, (I think it’s the shower/spider/hair incident that did it in) and incurring a fantastical dental bill that will mean that there is no yarn buying for quite some time to come. (There’s a temporary thingie on it to let me go to Halifax tomorrow)

The Ugly:

Unpacking, washing my clothes and packing them again.

The Good:

Unpacking, washing my clothes and packing again FOR HALIFAX. Dudes. I am stupid excited. ( And sort of stoned on the tooth drugs. Should make for a really fun time at the event tomorrow. If I can arse up my life this much straight, heaven only knows what will come of the drugged up version.) All you East Coasters…I’ll see you tomorrow!

PS. The bad.

Friends don’t let stoned friends knit a Kauni.


I arsed it up again. Orange where there should be green. There has got to be something simple in this house I can knit for a while.


This is another one of those posts from the road, the kind that I know some of you find boring, where I blather on about where I went and what I did and who I met, and what sort of transportation I took to get there. (Though the Kinnear thing was cool.) I know it’s a little boring…

Well, actually, I don’t. I know how it can be a little boring to you, it’s not at all boring to me. It turns out that something I’ve learned as I travel around doing all of this I’ve learning that there’s something in the world just about as interesting to me as knitting…and that’s Knitters, and I don’t think I should apologize at all for not finding them boring. Knitters come in such a wild assortment of humanity that I can’t help it. Besides, every time you think that you have a grip on what they are up to…..



These are the knitters I met in Boston. Don’t they look like every other sock/knitter picture I have ever taken? Doesn’t it look like it’s going to be ordinary and that nothing remarkable is going to happen at all?

Yeah. I know…but then? THEN THEY THREW PANTIES AT ME.



If I didn’t have photographic proof I wouldn’t believe it myself. I would have woken up this morning and thought…you know, what a totally strange dream. Totally. It turns out that the clever and perverse sense of humour among knitters has whacked me once again (much like the pair of gitch I took upside the head last night at the podium.) Apparently, I said in an Interview in Vogue this month, when asked how I coped with notoriety, that I didn’t feel at all famous. That it’s not like people were THROWING PANTIES AT ME.

Clearly I not only opened the door, but whacked a big ‘ole “hit me with underpants” sign on my head and I don’t think I have ever been more shocked, enchanted or amused. I am not sure who the instigators were, but considering that two of the panties that smacked me were signed by Danielle, and the The Feminist Mafia….and that Kimberly looked very, very amused indeed….I have my suspects. (I would also like to tell you how incredibly funny I think it is that the panties in question were size large and (mostly) white cotton. I think it is probably the first time in history that the pairs of panties whipped at someone haven’t been sexy little thongs. I love knitters.)

From there it got ordinary. If, you know..any of this is ordinary.

There were babies- little wee sleepy ones,


and funny laughing ones.


There were first sock knitters. (Yeah. I know. I said I was going to get a grip on the first sock thing. I lied. It’s first socks. I can’t help it.)

this is Curran and her first socks, not just a sock, but a whole pair, finished while I spoke.


Karen, Pam,Rebecca and Gina…(click to see them in all their glory)


and Downtown, who is not only showing off his first pair of socks,


but they are self-designed toe socks. Dude.

It was Meghann’s birthday!


And there were a plethora of young knitters. Behold, the next generation, Sophie, Louis, Taylor and Teddy. (Click to make the small knitters bigger.) Note that the next generation has an even gender split.


Finally, here’s Amanda, who brought me an Arizona washcloth…


Amanda, I made sure your hat got on it’s way to the hat lady, Kat, who I would like to thank for stepping up and getting it handled. Excellent job.

Now I’ve made my way to Madison Connecticut, where I’ll speak at RJ Julia tonight…and I got here this way…


He was not a knitter. I Kinneared him.

I was Kinnearing

I left for the airport on time, I arrived on time and although it ended up with me pretty snarky on the other side, safely in Boston, I was not late. However:

– Every human being in the world was at the airport. Maybe not you. Maybe you were knitting. Everyone else was there, in line, and hostile.

-For some reason, all of the humans in the airport had taken leave of their senses and were flying like they had never heard of any of of the airline rules, ever. There were people in line without boarding passes, people without passports in customs, people who couldn’t use automated machines, people dropping breakfast burritos… was one of those mornings that is clearly coming off the rails – for everyone, not just me. One guy had metal in his pockets, then change, then a belt with a big buckle, then….THEN, he had a Nalgene full of water he tried to take through security. (Do not tell me that maybe he didn’t know. There are a million signs saying no liquids. A million.) When they told him he couldn’t take it though, he asked where he could empty it out. Told there was no such facility in security, he proceeded to make the rest of us in the queue wait while he DRANK A LITRE OF WATER. (He barely escaped with his life. I kept wanting to seize his whole relaxed backpacker self and shake him wildly while screaming “GET SMARTER. For the love of all of your fellow humans GET SMARTER.” Natural selection my arse. If we were still doing survival of the fittest on this planet he wouldn’t have made it onto the plane before he was killed and eaten by the rest of us.)

In any case, everyone was all over the place and there were enormous waits and all this time ticks by and there’s this guy and there’s everyone all trying to do impossible against the rules things and time is ticking by and I’m sort of panicking because I’m going to totally miss my plane if things don’t improve right pronto…

and Whammo….

I look over in the line near me and I recognize someone. Holy cow. It’s Greg Kinnear! At first all I can think is “I know you.. ” which it turns out, I totally don’t, so I’m glad I didn’t go with “Hey Greg….”

Once I had it figured, (I saw his boarding pass in his hand and couldn’t help but notice that it said “G. Kinnear”) I thought maybe I’d take a picture of him. Maybe I’d ask him to hold the sock? No…that’s too forward. Dude’s just trying to fly to Boston. Maybe I’ll take his picture from far away? Yeah……No. That’s creepy. I know, I’ll take my camera out of my purse and just sort of hang my hand down and look all casual and not even look at him and take his picture in SECRET.


…’cause yeah. That’s not creepy at all. It didn’t really work out, so I tried another one.


Sigh. I decided to stay with the technique though, and so I Kinneared Julia in her car. Better, this one has part of the intended subject in it….


Then I Kinneared her husband.


(Get your minds out of the gutter.)

Kinneared Julia thinking about lunch.


Kinneared Julia showing me her sock machine.


By this time I had begun to think that this Kinnearing was rather an art form, and that I was getting quite good at taking pictures without looking …. It’s fun. But I’m stopping now.

I wouldn’t want to take it too far.

Kauni Questions

Okay, this time I’m not doing questions and answers as a cop out, but because there are so many.

Kellee writes

I totally do not understand the color patterning for this sweater. Are you using two balls at once, as you would for other multi-color stranding?

Yes. The chart for the sweater is a simple chart coloured in light and dark. You nominate one ball of yarn “light” and one “dark” and then follow the chart, knitting the stripes and squares.


In this example, if you start at the bottom you can see that the blue is used first for the background, with the yellow/green used to knit the squares. Then it stripes for a bit, then the yellow/green (which has progressed to be yellow) is the background and the blue is squares….etc. The yellow becomes orange, then red, the blue becomes green, then yellow. Get it?

(I’m not sure if it’s obvious, but you just start in different places on the balls so that you don’t have similar colours lining up. As you are starting in different spots, the colours “chase” each other and never line up.) When it comes time to knit the squares you are carrying both yarns all the way around, knitting with whatever the chart tells you too…just like any stranded colourwork. The stripes are just one colour. It’s one of the things that makes this sweater a relatively easy knit, there are seven rows plain work, then four colourwork, then seven plain…..


Other than the squares and stripes, the changing colours of the yarn makes all the magic happen.

Kim asks:

Okay, this might be silly, especially coming from someone who has yet to try fair isle anything, but would it be feasible to knit both sleeves at the same time, flat, with a steek, in order to match the colors? Or would a seam in the sleeves be just too bulky? Or would the colors not match anyway because of the length of the color change?

Not silly at all. You totally could, if you had the stomach for it. It would even mean that the colours changed at a rate closer to that of the body, since the diameter around two sleeves would be closer to the diameter of the body. For me though, one of the beautiful things about this sweater is that it’s easy. You knit the body, then cut armholes, then pick up and knit the sleeves down. No seams. It’s a beautiful thing. If, however, there is nothing more that you enjoy than the sewing of seams, if sewing seams fills you with a joy like the laughter of angels, you could do as pleases you. I do think that due to the steeks the sleeve seams would be a smidge bulky, but it’s not like it’s a chunky yarn.

Renae is perplexed:

Just out of curiousity and because i want to make sure i am reading the Kauni pattern correctly (and interpreting it correctly, to US needle sizes)…. What size needles have you been using?

I’ve been using the needles called for in the pattern, which, being European, are in metric, and since I’m in Canada, I’m in metric, which means that I didn’t convert to US sizes at all….I just went and got a 3mm and 3.5mm needle like the pattern says. I can see the difficulty though, since there is no US equivalent to a 3mm. You’ll need to pick between a US size 2 (2.75mm) or a US size 3 (3.25mm). I’d use gauge to solve the dilemma.

Susan T wonders what we are talking about:

Can someone please tell me when and where Rhinebeck is? I’ve heard so much about it (from your blog and others)over the past two years.

Right here. It’s a Sheep and wool festival in NY, and it’s technically not called Rhinebeck, which is where it’s held. It’s sort of like mecca for a lot of knitters. I’ll be there.

Kate has been thinking:

re strategy for matching sleeves – yes, but won’t that mean that you’ll want to have matching button bands as well????

There’s just no way to know. I’ll have to wait and see how much I care at the time. (My obsessions are variable.)

Linda M. has been charmed by yesterdays needles:

Ohhhh, must have pretty colored needles… must have…. now… how?????

Ok. I have to confess. I sweet talked my Darn Pretty dpns right out of the wood-turners hands…I am nothing if not charming in the face of knitting materials. I am ashamed, but I now own the needles. Judge me as you see fit. Now, if you don’t have easy access to the very charming Grafton Fibers people (Tom and Linda) and can’t boost yourself advance stock before they even know what hit them, then I suggest one of the following.

1. Wait. Apparently they will be available more widely (at the shops listed on their website) by the end of the month (or so – he’s just one guy and they are hand turned.)

2. Angel Yarns in the UK has them.

3. Linda, who owns this ebay store, says she will have them very soon. Probably today.

Annalea asks about my proposed haircut:

I have to ask: Are you going to see the little Greek hairdresser who says: “You sit down. I make nice.”, or the one that came very close to giving you Sarah Jessica Parker hair?

You have to ask? Hands down, Sarah all the way. (I actually got it cut already and it is potentially Sarah Jessica Parker hair. Now all I need is a personal stylist to meet me in the bathroom each morning and spend 3 hours wrangling it and I’m home free.)

I ask myself:

What are you doing writing the blog when you should be packing to go to Massachusetts and Connecticut?

Right. Sorry.